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In the next eight months, basketball fans will again be witnesses to the most intense rivalries that the NBA has to offer. There’s a long list of matchups that carry more weight than the others, but we’ve trimmed it down to five heavyweight matches that deserve your full attention. Mark your calendars, set your alarms, and file your work leaves accordingly—these are the games you shouldn’t miss.
Golden State Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder
The Golden State Warriors-Oklahoma City Thunder matchup has been a thing since Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were on the same side, battling the powerhouse Warriors in the playoffs. The two have since parted ways; one of them jumped to the other side and won a championship while the other one did what he wanted, got all the stats, and won MVP. Now, the reigning MVP Westbrook has two All-Stars in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George on his side to make things more competitive for the reigning Finals MVP Durant and his Warriors. Is it November 23 yet?
Miami Heat vs Philadelphia 76ers
Both teams aren’t guaranteed a spot in the playoffs despite a weak Eastern Conference, but their respective franchise players created a buzz that should make the matchup exciting. After the final preseason game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and Sixers’ Joel Embiid got into the millennial NBA’s version of trash-talking by engaging in a Twitter war. Embiid used the hashtag #Softy and tagged Whiteside, prompting the Heat big man to call out Embiid’s long history with injuries. If this preseason exchange is any indication, then their February 3, 2018 meeting shouldn’t be missed.
Houston Rockets vs LA Clippers
After several years of falling short in the playoffs, Clippers point god Chris Paul has embarked on a new path with a new team in hopes of finally making it to the NBA Finals. Paul’s new partner-in-crime, Houston Rockets’ James Harden, knows exactly how it feels to not make it to the finals, so it would be interesting to see how far their joint pursuit to greatness goes. As for the Clippers, it would be interesting—and weird—to see someone not named Chris Paul throwing lobs to DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Watch out for this high-scoring event on January 15, 2017.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics
The biggest trade in the offseason involved these two teams fighting over the chance to take down the Warriors. The Cavs and the Celtics were—and probably still are—the top two teams in the East, squaring off in the Eastern Conference Finals just a few months ago. But time flies and here we are now: Celtics have Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward; Cavs have Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose. How will these changes tip the balance in the East? We’ll have to wait for January, when Thomas is expected to return from injury, to find out. But to see Kyrie vs LeBron James? Barring any injuries, we only have to wait until opening day.
Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
The NBA is a gift that keeps on giving, which is why on Christmas Day, us fans are treated to a preview of the 2018 NBA Finals (Sorry, 28 other teams). The Warriors have added even more shooting this year with Nick Young and Omri Casspi while the Cavs are brandishing a new look with Thomas, Crowder, Rose, and Wade. If you have plenty of reasons to get excited for on December 25, make sure Warriors vs Cavs is at the top of the list.
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